Experiencing the Mysteries

Even if persons with developmental disability lack the potential to ever reason abstractly, their experience of the Mysteries (the Sacraments) can be just as rich as those who can reach that stage. For the Mysteries have Divine depth, and always beckon one forward to greater participation and fuller comprehension of their import. For the experience ultimately transcends conceptualization.

Fr. John Breck, in the chapter “Down Syndrome at Pascha,” in his book God With Us: Critical Issues In Christian Life And Faith, in the chapter “Down Syndrome at Pascha,” describes such an experience:

Shroud of Christ, was adorned with flowers and venerated by the faithful on Holy Friday


Marie, a woman with Down Syndrome, at the Holy Friday service: (pp. 66-67)

She was entirely dressed in black. Her face was streaked with tears, her head was bowed, and her arms hung down at her sides. As she approached the shroud, she slowly made the sign of the cross three times, prostrated herself before it, and for a moment kept her head to the floor. Then she rose, kissed the face and then the feet of Christ, and finally venerated the Bible and the Cross. “


The Brotherhood of St. Anastasia


a boy from Dom Miloserdia, St. Petersburg, Russia

This Orthodox Christian brotherhood (and sisterhood) cares for the elderly, prisoners, those who are sick, the homeless, and disadvantaged children, through the Dom Miloserdia childrenТs shelter. They also run a youth club.  

Here is their webpage:  The Orthodox Brotherhood of St Anastasia 

The picture is from a webblog authored by Anastasia Ciano entitled Love is the Key. In this post she recounts her experiences at the Dom Miloserdia Orphanage in her post Life, Love, Grace, or Carefree?  She recounts the changes she saw at this orphanage from her stay there (2001- 2002) until her recent internship (2013) in Then and NowTo see more of her pictures, access her Facebook page My Journey

Here is a young lady named Katya’s account of her experience at Dom Miloserdia Working at Dom Miloserdia 

St. Anastasia †304

St. Anastasia the Roman

“Pharmakolyria (Gk): Deliverer from Potions”

(See the website “Mystagogy” below for information and stories on St. Anastasia as a healer of those with mental illness. Most of the stories occurred after she went to be with the Lord, at the Church in Constantinople named after her.)

After the death of her husband Publius, St. Anastasia began to distribute her wealth to the poor. Dressed as a beggar, she would secretly visit Christian prisoners. Through her medical skills and her intercessions many were healed from the effects of poisons and potions.

Arrested in Illyricia, she was brought before the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome. Asked to choose between instruments of torture and gold, jewelry, and fine clothing, she chose the instruments of torture.

Charmed by her beauty, Ulpias sought to defile her, and was struck with blindness and a severe headache. On the way to his pagan temple to appeal to his idols, he perished.

Anastasia was set free, and continued to visit Christian prisoners. But she was again captured and sentenced to death by starvation. St. Theodota the Martyr, whom she had assisted in prison, appeared to her to strengthen her. After remaining unharmed sixty days without food, she was sentenced to die with 120 other prisoners.

On the open sea, the sailors bored holes in the boat and escaped in a galley. But St. Theodota guided to boat safely to shore. 120 men saw this, and believed and were baptized. They were all captured and martyred for Christ.

Stretched between four pillars. St. Anastasia was burned alive. Her body, unharmed by the fire, was buried by a  pious woman, Apollinaria, in the garden by her house. Her relics were later translated to a church that was built and dedicated to her in Constantinople. Some time after this, her head and one hand were transferred to the Monastery of St. Anastasia on Mt. Athos.

Orthodoxwiki.org: Anastasia the Deliverer fro Potions:

Kontakion in the Second Tone

When they that are found in trials and adversities flee unto thy church O Anastasia, they receive the august and wondrous gifts of divine grace which doth abide in thee; for at all times, O Saint of God, thou pourest forth streams of healings for the world.

Those in temptations and afflictions hasten to your temple and are restored by the grace that dwells in you, for you ever pour forth healings for all the world,O great Martyr Anastasia!

Troparion in the Fourth Tone

Your lamb Anastasia, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice: “I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering. In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You. Accept me as a pure sacrifice, for I have offered myself in love.” Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Troparion in the Fifth Tone

As a martyr you emulated the deeds of the martyrs, to whom you ministered, and, striving valiantly, you overcame the enemy. You are an abundant and overflowing source of grace for all who come to you, O godly-minded Anastasia!

Other Sources:

Antiochian.org: St. Anastasia, the Deliverer from Potions

Mystagogy: Why is Saint Anastasia Known as the “Deliverer From Potions” (Pharmakolytria)?

AllMercifulSavior.com: Western Saints Icon Project (Source of Icon)


Dr. JohnBoojamra on socialization

In his book Foundations for Orthodox Christian Education Dr. John Boojamra of blessed memory lays out the key means by which persons are socialized. (We all have strengths and weakness, abilities and disabilities, as it were. Its just that some people’s strengths and other’s weaknesses are more noticeable.) Consider these statements:

The family and the Church, in that order, are the matrix of socialization. (P. 10)

Orthodox Christian socialization is, in general terms, the process of human growth toward the uniting of oneself and others to Christ and His Church.

Those who have not, (or perhaps never will) reach the stage of abstract reasoning learn by experience, by watching- it is therefore imperative to include them in Church events. (pp 42-43)

Prayer by rote is one of the steps to sharing in the adult world. (P. 50)

Self-worth develops through accomplishment, acceptance, and a sense of belonging to both family and Church . . . the Church’s symbols and their constancy are assimilated; later, concepts [may] grow. The growth beyond egocentrism is facilitated by the shared experience of [these] symbolic structures, [whose] Divine depth invite eternal growth and discovery of the image of God inherent in every person.

The sensual- art, music, vestments, color, and tastes, experienced in the Liturgy- is the way (p. 53) Christ became flesh; touch is essential. Liturgy, fasting, prayer, and service, at Church and at home, socialize a person into [active citizenship] in the Kingdom. (p. 55)

Two key ingredients for socialization in the family: 1. the father’s commitment to the Faith and to love; 2. a loving relationship between the husband and wife (p. 80)

The Church and the lateral relationships it provides undergirds its families. (PP. 91-93)

Parish-based family-centered catechesis, balancing cognitive and affective elements, and addressing family efforts to worship, play, learn, and serve together, are a priority for the liturgy after the Liturgy if the parish is to be healthy, cohesive, and growing. (pp. 95-97)

The Church could be a clearinghouse for family support specialists; workshops by such specialists would be helpful. (P. 170)

John Boojamra +1999 

Image from modeoflife

under the bed

St. Luke

From the blog of Fr. Michael at St. Luke’s Orthodox Church, Garden Grove, CaliforniaFr. Michael’s blog (2007)

 “I envy Kevin. My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that’s what I heard him say one night.

He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, “Are you there, God?” he said. “Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed…”

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he’s 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different.

Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life?

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed.

The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied.

He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work.

He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores.

And Saturdays-oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside.

“That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go!” Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.

His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.

And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.

He doesn’t know what it means to be discontented.

His life is simple.

He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it.

He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.

He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue.

Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God – to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an “educated” person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith.
It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.

It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap . .. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God’s care.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won’t be surprised at all!”

George “Doc” Bulazo, †Sept. 2, 2013

His Patron Saint: St. George

Here is an inspiring life. From coal miner to school superintendent, with a heart for children with disabilities (one of whom was his son), George Bulazo actively served this community. The article below narrates some of his personal trials, as well as his faithfulness to his Orthodox Christian Parish, the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, Monongahela, PA.

Obituary from Griffith Funeral Home

Legacy.com: Guest Book

Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, Monongahela, PA

Icon from quarta via blogger profile

our call to love


“Our call to love impels us to do all that we can in order that those around us also find their place and role in the Church, the Body of Christ, the Ark of salvation, including those one might deem ‘less honorable [and] unpresentable. . . . On the contrary, the parts of the body which are weaker are indispensable [and are given] greater honor . . . that the members may have the same care for one another'” (1 Cor. 12:22-25).

from St John Chrysostom and the Socialization of Persons with Developmental Disability: Patristic Inspiration for Contemporary Application, by William Gall

picture from Body Life, by Tom Hilpert

Originally posted on Arms Open Wide:

“Our call to love impels us to do all that we can in order that those around us also find their place and role in the Church, the Body of Christ, the Ark of salvation, including those one might deem ‘less honorable [and] unpresentable. . . . On the contrary, the parts of the body which are weaker are indispensable [and are given] greater honor . . . that the members may have the same care for one another'” (1 Cor. 12:22-25).

from “St. John Chrysostom and the Socialization of Persons with Developmental Disability: Patristic Inspiration for Contemporary Application” (RESOURCES, Orthodox Christian Writings)

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